Photo credit: Mary Heston, World TravelingMom

It is nice to dream about those long family vacations but we don’t always have the time (or the budget) for a major getaway. For our family, one of our favorite ways to get away from it all is to go on a family hike. We live in the Pacific Northwest and there are some fantastic hikes wherever you go. The trail system in Washington state is particularly well maintained, marked, and abundant.  Here are a few tips we have learned over the years to having a successful outing when you are hiking with kids.

1. Start Early

Start early in the day but also start early when the kids are little. When kids are young they love going on adventures with their parents. If you wait until they are teenagers then they may think a day out with the parents is lame. But if it is something that the family always does together then it will be a lot easier to keep that activity going.

2. Know Your Trail

Get a trail map from your local park ranger, or a book, or go online and check out the trail before you go. It’s important to know if the trail is the right fit for your family. Some trails are more family friendly than others. The trail to Multnomah Falls, just east of Portland, Oregon, includes areas that are fairly steep. The hike to the first bridge is a pretty good hike for a family, but then it continues on to the top of the falls on a zig zag trail that is better suited for a little older hiker.


3. Do Not Rely on Your Phone for GPS

An increasing number of trails are in areas where there is good cell phone reception but you don’t want to have to rely on your phone for the trail information. We have a handheld GPS that doesn’t just show us the trail but it also shows us how much time we have before sunset. This is really helpful information if you are on a trail you don’t know as well.

4. Be Prepared

Even if the plan is simple – a short trail for day hike, for example –  it is good to be prepared. Have a few Band-aids, a bottle of water and a snack with you whenever you hike. This goes back to starting early. Teach your kids when they are little about taking the right supplies with you on a hike and then when they get older it will be easier and easier to take them on longer, more complicated, hikes.

No matter where you are hiking you should be prepared for the weather to change quickly. It might be sunny when you leave your car but rain could roll through or the temperature could drop. Think ahead to what you would do in those situations and be ready.

Sunscreen and bug spray are also an important part of making any hike more pleasant. Nothing like a sunburn or massive amounts of bug bites to ruin the memory of a perfectly good hike.

5. Have Fun and Pace Yourself

When we set out on a family hike I have looked at the trail ahead and it has looked relatively easy. But then we actually get out on the trail, my legs don’t always agree. Have fun but go at a comfortable pace. I often think about what would happen if someone sprained an ankle along the trail – what would I do? I certainly wouldn’t want to have to carry any one of the kids back to the car. So we take it easy and plod along having fun at a pace that works for all us.


For some really fun ideas on travel snacks follow the Travelingmom Pinterest Travel Snacks Board